I have a new post up at ALA TechSource:
The Commons puts students at the center. The idea of student-centered innovation was a theme woven throughout the commons field trips. The commons did not make it any easier for the librarians or to enforce library policies. In fact, Stacy Greenwell of the University was happy to tell me that they made it easier for students to use their cell phones in “the Hub.” “Yes, that’s right—at the Hub we actually installed infrastructure to make it easier for students to use cell phones. We actually encourage cell phone use. Truly the Hub is a No Shushing Zone.”
The Commons is built with student involvement. Stacy Greenwell of “the Hub” told me that along with the innovations the librarians wanted at UK, “we sought student input throughout the planning process”. Bob Seal highlighted the ways his librarians discovered students needed: space, access to technology, and ease of use.
The Commons is a welcoming, useful gathering place. The folks at Indiana University South Bend started with a specific goal: to be a welcoming center on campus. Michele Russo detailed this idea when it came to the desk: “The new service desk was also designed to send a welcoming message. It allows space for librarians, IT consultants, and multimedia specialists to work at one of two levels.” The Zones at Georgia Tech included flexible “anything and everything” spaces. Faculty might give a lecture in the morning, folowed by a DDR tournament in the afternoon and video creation in the evening.
The Commons makes connections. These connections might be between students, betweeen students and library staff, or between students and the various faculty and staff that may use the space as well. Dean of Library Services Michele Russo at IUSB said: “We envisioned making the Library a true teaching-learning-research center by creating an Information Commons where content, technology, and services provided by reference librarians, technology assistants, and multimedia specialists were available to students and faculty in one place.”
The Commons is a relevant, required space on campus. At Georgia Tech, we ooh’ed and ahh’ed all over Zones 1, 2 and 3 as though on a tour at Disneyland, but Associate Director Bob Fox’s message was loud and clear: “We don’t build walls here.” The spaces, created by innovative library staff and student focus groups, are that central, all purpose place (with access to needed resources and technology) that Rose addressed in her article. The larger the investment of planning, input and participants, the higher the return on use and support. How could spaces like those in my 2008 Information/Learning Commons Field trips not be considered required and relevant spaces for the university setting?